Friday, November 12, 2004
Social Security Reforms Getting Press
Laurence J. Kotlikoff, chair of the BU Economics dept, has an article in the Post today outlining a simple (sounding) 3 step plan to revamping the social security system.
- Replace the payroll tax with a retail sales tax. This shifts the tax-burden from a wages-only basis to an all-income basis which means it should be less regressive in the long-run.
- Phase out current Social Security system. I.e., eliminate it for those not already retired or close to it.
- Institute mandatory savings account that are invested in global indices.
It makes a lot of sense which means that it would probably never fly. I'd also be concerned about adding a new tax. The payroll tax would have to be abolished first because I think there would be a real danger that otherwise both would end up sticking.
Edward Prescott, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Economics, also writes on SS reform in the WSJ. He also favors individual accounts. Here are some interesting quotes:
- "Regarding labor supply, any system that taxes people when they are young and gives it back when they are old will have a negative impact on labor supply. People will simply work less. Put another way: If people are in control of their own savings, and if their retirement is funded by savings rather than transfers, they will work more. And everyone is better off. These are the type of win-win situations that politicians and policy makers should be falling over themselves to accomplish."
- It would be one thing if the government's Social Security system paid a decent return, but as the President's Commission reported, for a single male worker born in 2000 with average earnings, the real annual return on his currently-scheduled contributions to Social Security will be just 0.86%. And for a worker who earns the maximum amount taxed (then $80,400), the real annual return is a negative 0.72%.
- "Under a reformed system there will always be some individuals who, owing to disabilities or other reasons that prevent them from working, will not have sufficient savings in their old age. The solution is to include a means-tested supplement to ensure that those citizens receive a required payment -- just like they receive today. "